Eat less and live longer? The case for intermittent fasting

Eat less and live longer? The case for intermittent fasting

Less is more

Text: Yeong Sassall

Can consuming less calories do more than just keep your weight down? Jason Shon Bennett seems to think so

We live in a society obsessed with food and its abundance. Overeating, sedentary lifestyle choices and sugar consumption have all been linked to obesity and overindulgence. So it's not a massive stretch to figure out why many experts and jumping on the intermittent fasting bandwagon. From popular diets like the 5:2 to simply skipping meals, studies into the effects of intermittent fasting paint a fascinating portrait. Jason Shon Bennett, author of the new book Eat Less, Live Long (29.99) explains why he's a lifelong supporter of eating less.

Eating less is a novel idea for weight loss. But do you have any studies that support your belief that fasting is good for overall health?
In 2008, Diabetes UK boldly claimed that life expectancy in Britain will start falling for the first time in 200 years because of the rise in obesity and diabetes. Simply put, childhood obesity is leading to shorter lifespans. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2010 suggested children today will live an average two to five years less than their parents and grandparents. 

What has been identified and shown now, is how the process of 'eating less' actually works to dramatically increase lifespan. Eating less induces beneficial metabolic, hormonal and functional changes for maximum longevity. It enhances your longevity, partly by reducing visceral abdominal fat (which is responsible for inflammation and leads to chronic disease). Eating less improves physiological function and performance and slows the progression of physical disability in age.

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Researchers measured the energy expenditure in 30 Hadza men and women aged 18-75. The physical activity, exercise and movement of the Hadza men and women was much higher than those in modern societies, but when corrected for size and weight, their metabolic rate was no different. The researchers found that even among these ancient peoples, in their natural environment and eating their natural diet, the amount of calories we need is a fixed human characteristic. This clearly shows that we are growing overweight and obese through overeating rather than a sedentary lifestyle.

What are some of the health benefits from consuming less food?
- more energy, vitality and stamina
- reduced lifestyle-fat content (this is the deadliest kind)
- sustained long term weight loss giving a healthier and leaner weight
- a more powerful and effective immune system
- a happier digestive system with more stable blood glucose levels
- a sharper mind with a much lower risk of brain diseases
- lower body acidity levels
- decreased inflammation protecting you from almost all illness
- an immediate slowing of the ageing process

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A lot of people don't know when to stop eating and portion sizes can be huge. What 5 tips can you offer for training yourself to stop overeating?
1. Eat only when you are hungry. Eating is all about emotions as most of us eat for our emotional state (instead of our body) so ask yourself "Why am I eating? Am I really hungry or just mad, upset, emotional or bored?"
2. Eat soaked homemade muesli, full of healthy nuts and seeds, for breakfast for a sustained energy boost that will last until lunchtime.
3. Instead of nibbling on food between meals, drink water.
4. Eat more high fibre foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and well prepared legumes and wholegrains.
5. Fast one day each week to get a real appreciation for how little you actually need to eat.

What kind of fasting do you suggest?
Regular Intelligent Fasting is the best form of fasting I have ever experienced. Just freshly made vegetable juice (my favourite recipe is greens, with some carrot, beetroot to flavour and ginger to stimulate), water, herbal tea and/or potato broth. We are all 'under-vegetabled' and 'over-sugared' so vegetable juice is the perfect mix if you are taking the day off food.

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Regular Intelligent Fasting is what I have practiced for over 25 years and what I suggest you do. Fasting is great if you use it to kick off a new start or an improvement to your daily habits. If you do it once a year and go back to pigging out and eating rubbish, then you are wasting your time and doing more harm than good.

Are there any high profile people/communities who follow this type of eating regimen?
The Western average is, at best, 100 centenarians per million people. In Okinawa, where they eat at least 30% less than Westerners do, they have 700+ centenarians per million people. Their most mentioned secret to longevity is simply, 'eating less'. All of the longevity cultures around the world eat far less on average, than we do. They mainly eat a local, seasonal, plant-based, wholefood diet of around 1900 calories.

Find out more about Jason and his new books, Eat Less, Live Long and My 20 Golden Rules, by visiting

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